How to Tell a Right Hand From Left Hand Door Swing

There's nothing more frustrating than purchasing a door, only to find that the hinges are on the wrong side. It's a simple mistake that can happen to anyone. Door swing direction, also known as door handing, can be disorienting because terminology differs depending on region or supplier. Apply a single method accepted by the majority of builders, carpenters and dealers, and you can't go wrong.

Woman hand opening cabinet doors.
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How to Tell a Right Hand From Left Hand Door Swing

Get Pushy

The confusion over door swing direction usually originates from what side of the door you're on. The majority of doors, including bedroom, bath and double doors, are in-swing doors, meaning that they open into the room. You push them to open them instead of pulling them toward you. The push side, also referred to as the outside or exterior side, is the side of the door typically used to determine if the door is left- or right-swing.

In-swing doors are common for safety. In case of a fire, if the door were to swing out into a hallway, it could block you from quickly exiting the building.

Swing Direction

The standard procedure is to stand with your back to the push side, or exterior, of the door. If the doorknob is on your right, it's a right-hand swing door. If the doorknob is on your left, it's a left-hand swing door. The barrel, or cylinders of the hinges, should be on the opposite side of the door. In other words, you shouldn't be able to see them when you're determining the door swing direction.

Swing Out

Another type of door, the out-swing door, opens away from the interior of the room. In some states, such as Florida, out-swing doors are sometimes used as exterior entryway doors because they resist high winds better than in-swing doors. The out-swing door is gaining momentum as a garage-to-home entryway door because it protects against fire and blast protection better than in-swing doors. The doorstop prevents the door from being pushed inward.

Out-Swing Push

Here's where it might get confusing. The door swing direction for an out-swing door is still established from the push side of the door. That means you're on the inside of the room not on the exterior side like an in-swing door. Stand with your back to the door. If your right hand is on the doorknob side, it's a right-hand swing. If your left hand is on the doorknob side, it's a left-hand swing.

Out-swing doors may present a security issue when located on the exterior entryway because the cylinders of the hinges are on the exterior side. Purchase security hinges for this type of door, so they can't be tampered with.

Switching the Direction

In the event that you've hung the door, and due to poor planning or a recent remodel, the door swings the wrong way, the swing direction can be changed. It's possible to remove the door and casing, cut the jamb loose with a reciprocating saw, turn it around, and reinstall it. Another technique is to remove only the door, route new hinge mortises on the other side of the jamb, move the striker plate, patch the old mortises, and rehang the door. If you're handy with tools, you can do it yourself, or a carpenter can do it for a reasonable fee.

Some doors, usually exterior doors, may have a 2-degree bevel on the latch side to facilitate the door closing properly. If the door sticks or rubs after you've changed the swing direction, it may be necessary to sand the edge of the door slightly to lessen the bevel.